Can an app change an entire industry?

As one of the world’s first taxi apps, it’s impossible to downplay the impact mytaxi has had on modern mobility. For over a decade, the app and its ecosystem have reinvented how people move from point A to point B and created a seamless experience for passengers and drivers around the globe.
  • Client mytaxi
  • Year 2011-2013 & 2018
  • Website
  • Our Role Product Design
    Brand Design
    Website Design

A long, long time ago...

…in the year 2008: The Apple App Store had just seen the light of day. What we take for granted today was then an absolute novelty. We were able to purchase apps directly and download and install them onto our phones.

Simultaneously, mytaxi founders Niclaus Mewes and Sven Külper were engrossed in a brainstorming session on what the future of mobility would be. They conceived an ambitious plan: to create a mobility platform that skips the middleman—the drawn out back and forth of communication channels at the time—to connect drivers and passengers directly.

While the business case, its scalability and transformative power quickly became apparent, how we could best get that message to and excite customers was completely up in the air. There simply had never been such a service that had enjoyed trust at scale.

When Niclaus Mewes finally had the first technical proof of concept in his hands, he decided to invest early on in developing visual clarity and in understanding the needs of users. Thus, he was a pioneer in recognizing the strategic value of effective design. After discovering our work with the first iteration of our Cinemaxx app, he approached us with his plan.

Initially, our primary goal was to provide the app with an air of playfulness and to draft a uniform design language that was at home in the Apple iOS 5 ecosystem. By bonding the pioneering spirit of mytaxi with our design expertise, we set off not just to convince clients and investors, but also drivers, who continued to be vehemently opposed to the idea.

Back in 2012, interfaces still required a haptic quality to attract users to new digital services.

Where to, pal?

So, we tore down the old UI, gave it a brand-new skin and began focusing on our thus obscure users who were meant to make hailing a taxi on their phones a daily habit—ideally in one streamlined process/simple interaction. Instead of implementing effects that would bloat the app, we put ourselves in our user’s shoes at the precise moment the taxi-booking process began.

In 2008, the only way to hail a taxi was to call central dispatch. In addition to knowing what number to call and communicating the precise location (no small feat when out of town), would-be passengers also needed to have enough cash on hand for the fare.

To put it mildly, booking a ride was a chore. Something most people only did when absolutely necessary, when travelling on business or when they’d had one too many. That realization inspired the mytaxi product developers to devise an entirely new Golden Path or, more commonly, Key User Journey, that seamlessly incorporated the entire booking process.

The Golden Path consisted of the home screen, destination selection, booking overview, visualization of approaching taxis and payment.

Functionality, meet Personal Interaction

Our functional key user journey tested well, but we quickly realized that eliminating the middleman meant eliminating an entire series of natural, spoken interactions—some of which were an absolute pleasure!

“Hello, this is Peter and I’d like to order a taxi, please!
“Hi Peter, Thanks for calling! Where may our driver pick you up?”
“I’m just now getting out of a meeting. Could you pick me up on 4 and Main?”
“Certainly! Your driver will be there in 5 minutes. Have a nice evening.”
Thank you! You too."

Fine, fine. That’s a slight exaggeration. The fact is, however, the biggest challenge facing us was how could we keep digital interaction to a minimum within the app (ideally, only having to type something once) and thus afford ample room for interaction with the driver. That, however, only led to even more questions:

How could we encourage passengers and drivers to communicate directly, as opposed to constantly checking their phones if the booking went smoothly?
How could we do to ensure a fast and smooth experience so that users remembered the service and were likely to use it again?
How could we get passengers to fall in love with the mytaxi brand and turn frequent usage of the app into a habit?
How could we establish trust and loyalty between the brand, drivers and passengers, so that everyone benefitted directly?
How could we position both the product and the brands as global pioneers in the mobility sector?

A big logo and a bigger decision

Once we landed on a suitable form for the product, we turned our attention to the brand, where our primary challenges were customer retention, fleet expansion and internationalization. Bolstered by initial success, we secured investments from Daimler, T-Venture and Car2go, among others.

Nevertheless, competition remained stiff. Each company was determined to outdo the next in speed and quality. And mytaxi was now jostling with companies like Google, Uber, Lyft, easytaxi, hailo and gettaxi for pole position on the international mobility stage.

We were soon faced with a fundamental question in order to keep up the pace: Brand Evolution or Revolution? When T-Venture began pressing for a new logo as the mytaxi “T” was too reminiscent of the Deutsche Telekom, our answer was apparent—with one big but:

No one was interested in a new logo. It was hastily slapped together under less than ideal conditions and was widely panned in the media. Users were not exactly waiting for the change — but they rarely do.

We knew we were up against it from the get go. We impressed upon mytaxi the importance of viewing the new logo as a strategic opportunity to loudly announce their presence on the European market and in doing so force the market’s biggest players to take note. It was a calculated risk: disrupt our loyal customer base in order to attract even more customers.

Hindsight is 20/20. In retrospect, the rebrand was a major step for the fledgling startup: The logo was ubiquitous and the mytaxi movement wore it proudly—and it was soon present in 11 international markets.

Many agencies worked hand in hand to drum up international awareness for the new brand.

Picking up steam (and passengers)

2012 was a year of excitement for everyone involved in the success of mytaxi—a far cry from business as usual. A team of excellent developers, product managers, testers, shareholders and marketing experts came together to produce truly incredible results week in, week out. We were fortunate that design was as important for them as it was for us.

In version 4.0, we were able to assist mytaxi in reaching another important milestone: the coveted title of “App of the Year” in the App Store. On top of that, our efforts led to mytaxi securing an additional 10 million in investments from Daimler and version 4.0 has generated over 10 million downloads. It was nothing short of a monumental success that helped pave the way for further bold evolutions in the coming years.

Version 4.0 (iOS) was a bold visual statement.

The result

As far back as 2014, the taxi trade had been permanently altered. Incredibly, only a handful of drivers complained about the change in the long run. mytaxi now had an international full-time staff of over 1000, a fleet of 100,000 taxis and more than 10 million downloads—despite the fact that the increase in figures also meant an increase in users for the competition. We are proud of our contribution that helped affect such a widespread change in such a short amount of time. Even though we kept our eyes on the road ahead, we knew that 2014 would also be the year that we exited mytaxi.

Modulr made a vital contribution to mytaxi becoming one of the few German startups recognized around the world.

Niclaus Mewes, founder of mytaxi

But in 2018, things (briefly) changed: mytaxi commissioned us for a new redesign. As we were unaware at the time that mytaxi would be merging with Daimler and BMW to form FreeNow, we continued developing without brand restriction and came up with a brand new universe of colors, shapes and fonts.

Here, we focused primarily on stripping down the UI as much as possible—which was a complete course reversal from our strategy in 2012. In the end, only a few aspects of our redesign made the cut for the app’s final version.

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